Teach This Poem: "Self-Portrait in the Time of Disaster" by Deborah Paredez

Teach This Poem, though developed with a classroom in mind, can be easily adapted for remote-learning, hybrid-learning models, or in-person classes. Please see our suggestions for how to adapt this lesson for remote or blended learning. We have also noted suggestions when applicable and will continue to add to these suggestions online.

Featured Poem

Classroom Activities

The following activities and questions are designed to help your students use their noticing skills to move through the poem and develop their thinking about its meaning with confidence, using what they’ve noticed as evidence for their interpretations. Read more about the framework upon which these activities are based.

  1. Warm-up: (Teachers, before class, ask students to bring in or send in a selfie. This can be of themselves or someone they know.) Today, you will go on three mini-speed dates. During each date, you will have two minutes to share your image with your partner. Your partner will take one minute to tell you what they see in the image, and you will have one minute to respond. Then you will switch and look at your partner’s image. The process will be repeated on your next “speed date.” 

  2. Before Reading the Poem: (free-write) After viewing the images from the beginning of class, how might you define a self portrait? Share your responses. 

  3. Reading the Poem: Now, read the poem “Self-Portrait in the Time of Disaster” by Deborah Paredez silently. What do you notice about the poem? Annotate any words or phrases that stand out to you or any questions you might have.

  4. Listening to the Poem (enlist two volunteers to read the poem aloud): Listen as the poem is read aloud twice, and write down any additional words and phrases that stand out to you. 

  5. Small-group Discussion: Share what you noticed in the poem with a small group of students. Based on the details you just shared with your small group and the resources from the beginning of class, what does the poet include in the self-portrait poem? How does the poem compare to the images you saw? 

  6. Whole-class Discussion: What might be the significance of the title “Self-Portrait in the Time of Disaster?” In the poem, what does the daughter want? What does the speaker want? What imagery do you see in the poem?  

  7. Extension for Grades 7-8: Read more self-portraits by Paredez, here and here. Write your own self-portrait poem. Share your poem with your class. 

  8. Extension for Grades 9-12: Choose to read some self-portraits poems. After you finish, create a presentation about the self-portrait poem. Share your presentation with your class.

More Context for Teachers

“...the latter get across an inquisitive spirit, a wish to see how it really was for others, alongside a drive to know what, as a daughter, as a citizen, as a poet, she must now do.” Read a review of Paredez’s book, Year of the Dog, along with more poems from the collection.

Poetry Glossary

This week’s poetic term is ars poetica, a poem examining the role of poets themselves as subjects, their relationships to the poem, and the act of writing. Read more.